“Are there too many airbnb listings in DC to be sustainable?”

by Prince Of Petworth April 20, 2016 at 2:15 pm 100 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Caitlin Faw

“Dear PoPville,

There seems to be an incredible amount of rooms/apts/houses being offered in DC on airbnb. I am truly amazed at the volume. All the hosts I know of seem to have no trouble getting guests and if you don’t mind the hassle of flipping the space between guests, everyone seems to find it very lucrative. It’s all win, win, win.

So… when will the other shoe drop? What’s the impact of all these airbnb listings in DC? It’s not like there are MORE tourists/students/interns visiting DC now than in prior years. So what’s the catch?

Are the area hotels suffering?
Is the rental market suffering (b/c people want to air bnb their spare rooms/apts instead of renting)?
Is this sustainable?

I have a hard time believing this can all be so rosey for much longer.

What do others think? Are there too many airbnb listings in DC to be sustainable?”

  • domrep

    If you think it’s bad now, just wait until the Inauguration.

    • …if only condo associations would enforce the rules about subleasing (I mean, I’m sure some do)

      • neighbor

        A lot are pretty strict about this actually.

        • SW,DC

          yea that a deff no go in my building. BIG fine!

          • guest1

            how do they enforce this? how do they document the evidence? Is it just when new reviews show up on the profile?
            What’s the fine? I’m curious b/c we are facing this same issue

          • anonymous

            I’m a day behind, but regarding enforcement:
            A couple of years ago my building (a co-op with strict rental rules) had a problem where someone bought a unit and then used it exclusively as an Airbnb/CL temporary housing. The proof were screenshots of the posting and then neighbor statements, and the punishment was a fine every day the apartment was listed online as a temporary rental.
            Neighbors noticed different people going in and out, and got some “odd” questions that a resident wouldn’t normally ask (i.e “is there a good place to eat around here?”….we’re in Adams Morgan). Board members found the ad online and fined the owner every day it was posted until he took it down. When he posted it back up a couple of weeks later they fined him again, and eventually he sold. I don’t remember what the fine is, but I’d say higher than whatever the daily rate is on Airbnb (so there’s no profit).

          • guest1


  • anonymous

    Im more surprised at how many people have extra bedrooms and or places to rent. Is it that many single people living in places with more than one bedrooms? Where does the idea thst theirrd a shortage of housing for families then?

    • JoDa

      Hint: it’s how the people who are complaining about a lack of housing for families define “housing for families” that is the problem. I’m often shocked when I see comments/talk to people how different their experiences/expectations are from mine. Basically: families can only live in single family homes, every kid and the parents must have their own bedroom, one bathroom per 1.5 people is a MINIMUM, and a yard isn’t a yard if it’s shared. Oh, and that should be affordable on a household income of <$80,000, within blocks of public transit, but with plenty of parking, because people with kids MUST drive.
      It's a wonder anyone I grew up with was even born, because NONE of us grew up like this, and we somehow survived. I shared a bedroom with a sibling until I was 6, in Jr. High we lived in a standard apartment (that is, a flat in a multiunit building…which was actually kind of awesome because the complex had a pool and what 13-year-old doesn't want a POOL they can use any time in-season???!!!), and the house we lived in when I was in high school had only one bathroom for *4* people. How DID we survive?
      I had 2 bedrooms as a singleton for a while (though I didn't rent the second in any way) because the place I bought was the "best value" of any place I looked at (it was toward the low end of the price range among the options, had among the nicest finishes and amenities, and the location was just slightly above "average" among the options I considered). I know plenty of other people who bought bigger places expecting to "grow into" them, and rent rooms in the meantime.

  • Formerly ParkViewRes

    I don’t think there will be a problem. Even if it became an issue many people could just convert their AirBnB to a long-term rental. Also, in my experience staying at an AirBnB can be significantly cheaper than staying in a hotel.

    • stacksp


      the thing about have a property to lease is that you have several ways to do so. Air Bnb is just another outlet in addition to a traditional rental, sec 8 rental, etc…

  • textdoc

    “Are the area hotels suffering? Is the rental market suffering (b/c people want to air bnb their spare rooms/apts instead of renting)?”
    I suspect the answer to both is “yes.”

  • Elisa

    I think most hosts aren’t thinking of Airbnb as a long-term thing. I rent out the other two rooms in my house but am only planning to do so for another year until I’ve paid off some extra debt I incurred when I bought the house. The number of rooms available will ebb and flow, and I think it’ll work itself out.

    • houseintherear

      Very true. And in my case, I rented my guest room full time for a few years until I could refi and get rid of pmi, and now I rent on airbnb a few weekends a month for extra shopping money. For me, airbnb is something I don’t rely on for my budget, because it’s true that the other shoe may some day drop. I would guess that airbnb hosts will be charged hotel tax at some point in the future… right now, we pay income tax on the rentals, so hotel tax would be enough to make a lot of people (like me) not rent on airbnb anymore.

      • Airbnb host

        Hotel tax is already collected by Airbnb in the District. Your guests are paying it.

        • houseintherear

          Ahh ok- thanks for correcting!

      • CHGal

        And if a lot of people stopped renting due to the hotel tax, the prices of those left would go up (less available), bringing more people into the market to rent their space. And we’re back where we started.

  • anon

    Ha, funny timing. We just found out our tenants are moving out and we are converting our english basement to an airbnb instead of a longterm rental. Our reasoning is not because we think we can make more money, but because we want to have the flexibility to use the space when we need to (which we obviously can’t do with longterm tenants). I’m worried it’ll be a lot more work though, so we may end up going back to longterm renting if it proves to be too much of a hassle.

  • cakelyn

    I don’t think hotels are suffering. I’ve been booking around 10 rooms for the same week in April for work for the past 4 years, this year (booking at the same time) the prices were $100 higher than last year and the usual downtown suspects were fully booked. We ended up booking an AirBnB only because the hotel space wasn’t available.

  • Trinidaddy

    what are people doing for cleaning an air bnb unit in between bookings?

    • Linc Park SE

      There are a few services specific for cleaning AirBnB rentals

      • anon

        Would you mind expanding on that/providing links? I have looked on Angie’s List, but I haven’t found anything specific to airbnb yet. I’ve been quoted over $100 per cleaning by one company and that seems pretty steep to me if they’re just straightening up between guests (especially if you’re shelling that out every week).

        • Andie302

          I’ve heard of pillow-cloud and guesty, but I don’t know anyone that uses them or have any experience with them personally

    • Andie302

      We have a cleaning person. We pass the cost of cleaning directly onto the guest through the reservation. My boyfriend found her on craigslist by posting an add for what he was looking for. She was the first to respond and is an absolutely godsend.

    • Molly

      Try Handy; get extra sheets/towels so you can do laundry on your own time, and leave a key to the unit in a lockbox. You won’t have to be there and can schedule online when needed. My 1br is $38/cleaning.

      • anon

        Hm that sounds intriguing. Do they do a thorough job/restock any items that need replenishing? I plan on keeping a locked supply closet that I’d make accessible to whatever cleaning service I go with.

      • BRP

        I had a few bad experiences (ranging from “eh – good thing I had that discount and only paid $25” to “you’ve used up all your chances; immediate cancellation of future bookings”) with Handy. You get what you pay for and the customer service on the app end is terrible. a few friends have tried Handy and have said the same. heads up.

        • anon

          Thanks for the heads up. Usually if something sounds too good to be true, it is.

    • bobby

      I just posted an ad on craigslist to try to find a semi regular cleaner. I have a lot of turnover on my space sometimes 15 different guests per month, so there are times I cant do it. I said I would pay $22 for about 1 hour of work (its a small place) and I received about 15 emails.

      • mollydoll1970

        $22 is not enough for someone to do a really good job.

    • GuestPrep.com is a cleaning and laundry company that specializes in Airbnb turnovers, they are in a few cities but I think they started in DC. My one bedroom costs me $55 and they do a great job.

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious as to how many property owners go the AirBnB route because they don’t want the hassle of being a landlord in DC, an incredibly tenant friendly jurisdiction. It may be a more attractive option to do a series of short-term rentals, each of which has a certain end date, rather than sign a lease and potentially end up with a bad tenant in perpetuity.

    • Anon

      Those laws that apply to long term rentals apply to short term rentals as well. Going th Airbnb route does not get you out of them.

      • airbnb

        no they don’t. you don’t sign a lease to rent airbnb. and, the type of person who would do a short term airbnb rental isn’t the type of person whose going to try to get lawyers involved. not to mention airbnb is based on reputation, which would be ruined if you did the kind of stupid stuff tenants in dc often do.

        • Anon

          You don’t need a lease for tenant laws to apply. You just need a payment.

          • JoDa

            I do believe that tenant rights don’t kick in for 28-30 days, though. If it’s less than that, you could have a guest for a few days and they could claim rights as a tenant. I *have* heard horror stories of AirBnB guests asserting tenant rights and really f-ing over the owner in some places, but only after long(ish)-term stays of a month or so.

          • bv1837

            There’s not a minimum number of days. A landlord/tenant situation is triggered when you offer the room to rent (for a fee) and someone takes you up on it and makes a payment (even just one). That’s why guests can’t just move in forever. So yes, AirBnB guests get the same rights as tenants in DC.

        • victoria
          • Shawz

            As Airbnb has the guest’s credit card on file, this is less than an issue. A guest is charged double per day if they stay beyond the length of the reservation. I suppose they could try disputing the credit charges, but now we’re talking a very determined person attempting to not leave a room.

          • anon

            Well the second article is just plain silly. Why would you agree to take money under the table instead of through airbnb? Then you have no recourse. As far as the first one, can you put a limit on how long a single booking is? That one was for 44 days, and as an airbnb renter, I would not like the looks of that (less turnover and more money aside).

      • secondhand

        Not true. A short term lease does not automatically allow for a long

      • secondhand

        Not true. The short term lease is a short term lease and not “convertible” to a month to month. THis is why Airbnb is so attractive.

    • secondhand


    • secondhand


  • Kathryn-DC

    My take is that I doubt it has any negative impact at all. DC has a well documented housing shortage, as well as short-term shortages of hotel rooms. We just don’t have the density or vertical capacity to handle the crowds that come here.

  • Linc Park SE

    I think Air BnBs are good options for ppl who would be paying the same for a hotel/motel room way out in the burbs and schlepping in. Maybe it’s having an impact on those motels. Otherwise I agree with the above postings – everyone I know of renting out as Air BnBs is doing so temporarily.

  • Andie302

    I worried about this when we listed our space in October – that maybe we missed the boat, but we’ve had guests almost every night of the month for the last six months in our basement. We’re lucky to be centrally located, so most of the positive comments have to do with proximity to metro and other things in Shaw, but to answer I would say: not yet.

  • Marty

    also curious how many folks are paying taxes on the income. (I never paid when I rented out my house for 3 years, so I’m not condemning anyone — just interested.)

    • Andie302

      I got a notification that “tax time is near, and here is what you’ll need” as a year-end summary and was able to plug it in very easily. I think this is the first year that they opted to provide the summary and not a direct 1099, but I could be wrong about that.

      • houseintherear

        Yep it was… I liked it this year because they didn’t just add up all $ guests paid (rental plus fees), so it was easier for me to do the math on what I actually had as income.

    • houseintherear

      From what I understand, Airbnb now sends the rental income info to the dc gov’t, so ya’ll best be payin!

      • houseintherear

        (could be wrong on this)

        • anon5

          AirBnB pays the hotel tax (14.5%) to the DC government directly, but I don’t believe they produce a 1099 form on income (which is to say that they don’t report the income to the DC govt or the IRS) unless your income is above a certain amount or over a certain number of stays. Regardless, people should be reporting the income, but it goes without saying that people should also report expenses (depreciation, cleaning expenses, repairs/maintenance, supplies).

          • houseintherear

            They created and sent 1099s for the 2014 calendar year, but this year they contacted hosts and said the income was being reported but no actual paper 1099s were being sent- the info was on our account pages on the website.

          • CHGal

            I do taxes and have seen a number of 1099s from airbnb. They do send them.

          • anon5

            found it…see my post below…the listing has to have over $20,000 in income per year AND over 200 reservations per year before airbnb will produce a 1099-k. from airbnb’s website:
            “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that all US companies processing payments, including Airbnb, report the gross earnings of US customers that earn over $20,000 and have 200+ transactions in the calendar year. If you cross both IRS thresholds in a calendar year, Airbnb will provide you with a Form 1099-K.”

      • Marty

        but when they pay, is your name/address linked to it? Or are they just remitting $xx on behalf of AirBnB rentals this week/month?

        • houseintherear

          Good question, and I don’t know the answer. Airbnb verifies hosts using a bunch of forms of ID and of other sources, so I would assume it is reported via your name and social security #.

          • anon5

            If what the post reported in January 2015 is still true, then airbnb pays DC a lump sum of tax revenue collected for all listings in the DC without owner or listing information. However, the 1099 stuff could be different, but I can tell you that I made $30,000 in gross income from my airbnb in 2015, and I did not meet airbnb’s threshold for providing me with a 1099. If I remember correctly, it had to do with the number of stays rather than the dollar figure. Even though I voluntarily reported all of that income, I do not believe that airbnb reported that income to DC or the IRS.

      • secondhand

        Airbnb sends rental income to IRS & DC for collections greater than $20,000/year

    • anon

      I think airbnb reports your income to the IRS, so you’d be ill-advised not to claim it. When you’re renting as a private landlord, there’s really no one to check up on you (unless you get reported by an angry tenant).

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      To me, that’s a big risk and one I am not willing to take. Most people I know that rent homes in DC (whether through a traditional lease or AirBnB) pay taxes on the income. I know a handful of people that rent illegally and they even claim it on their income taxes.

      • Timebomb

        This is almost entirely a matter of filling out a form and paying the $250 minimum unincorporated business fee. I’ve never owned a rental unit for which the mortgage interest and depreciation didn’t cover the income. You could probably find some other costs related enough to the rental to deduct if that still doesn’t get you to zero.
        The taxation is not onerous at all; just do it.

        • JoDa

          And to that, I would add, on your DC income taxes, while you claim the income, anything that you’re taxed on on the DC-20 or -30 has its own deduction, so you’re not “taxed twice” on that income. If you pay the minimum $250 franchise tax (I own a few rentals and still squeak in under the $250 minimum, after expense deductions), you save a bunch on your DC taxes (not fed, but there are enough deductions that you can make it work so that it’s not a huge sum). In my world, I’d owe DC almost $1000 if taxed as regular income, but because it goes on the franchise tax return, it gets knocked off the DC-40 and I pay only $250 to DC.
          Because I am also a fed, not paying taxes on any income I earn, no matter how casual (unless it’s under the limits to claim – generally $600), is a risky proposition. I don’t need to lose my job because I thought I could get away with it. For others, you just don’t know who might turn you in, so claiming the income is a good CYA move. For a rental, it’s going to be federal schedule E income and taxed at your marginal tax rate at the fed level (no FICA due, *usually( (if you are solely living off of AirBnB or rental income, you might want to consult a tax professional about that bit)) and, generally, by the franchise tax in DC (see above), so it’s not like running your own business where you get burned by the self-employment tax (I also have a small business, and pay a total of 48% tax on every dollar I earn from that…YIKES!).

  • john

    I work in the tourist market and you are wrong about there not being MORE tourists than in prior years. Last year there were over 20.2 million tourists………just wait until inauguration

    • dunning-kruger

      Having grown up here my thought was that assumption they made was wrong.

  • Bloomy

    I think that some suburbs might be feeling it. I’d guess that NOVA used to get some of the overflow that’s being absorbed by the new airbnbs now during high occupancy times… But we’re still converting our basement to an airbnb rental (they withhold taxes and send you a 1099-K showing your reportable earnings at the beginning of the year). And if it goes well, we’re also hoping the model can help us afford a lake house sooner :)

    • JoDa

      This was my thought, as well. Given the choice between staying in, say, Fairfax at a tourist-class hotel or in someone’s English basement close-by things I want to do and transit, I’d opt for the latter. I have a couple of friends who AirBnB their (very nice, accurately described, and totally legal) basements/in-laws, and they, generally, go for about what you’d pay for a room at something like a Hilton Garden or Hampton Inn in the suburbs. Beyond being IN the city and closer to everything, they also have either a full kitchen or kitchenette, so you can save a little coin by preparing some of your own meals or packing a picnic lunch to take with you. I’ve taken the same tactic when I’ve AirBnB’ed a place when traveling (“oh, cool, since I have a fridge, microwave, and toaster oven, let me stop at the grocery store and then I can make my breakfast every day, my last night’s dinner, and pack a lunch for the day I plan to spend biking around town”…the host who won my heart realized that many people would be doing this and provided some tupperware for guest use!). And many of those people I know are renting out places that can hold more people than a hotel room, so if you’re a family of 5, you pay, say $140/night and have 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom and kitchenette, where a hotel is going to charge you an extra fee for at least one extra person (who then has to sleep on a rollaway), if not 2 or even *3* “extra person charges” if your kids are 13+.

      • Accountering

        I agree with this 100%. I think it is terrific too, more low cost options in the city, more tax revenue for the city, more income for city residents, and crappy hotels in the burbs take the hit. Another win win for DC!

  • Rich

    A lot of AirBnB properties in the District are in marginal areas and often misrepresent nearby amenities “10 minute walk to metro” when it’s at least 1/2 miles away). I’ve used AirBnB to help visitors look for places to stay (longer than just a few nights). I think it may be more of an issue in terms of distorting the long-term rental market in more desirable areas. It’s also probably replaced advertising on bulletin boards, etc. for medium term (2-3 month) rentals that appealed to people doing internships, brief sabbaticals, etc..

    • anon

      1/2 mile is only a 10 minute walk. Most people walk 3 mph or faster…

  • I will try to answer your questions one by one, here goes…
    “It’s not like there are MORE tourists/students/interns visiting DC now than in prior years. So what’s the catch?” – Yes, there actually are. DC has become a significantly more friendly tourist destination once the crime rate went down, and our culinary scene has been gaining national recognition for years now.

    “Are the area hotels suffering?” – Of course. They went from being the only option to an option, one that’s often more expensive. This has zero affect on an AirBnB listing owner though, since they don’t care about a hotel’s business. Hotels are the ones lobbying to make changes to regulate AirBnB to, at minimum, make sure owners are paying the same taxes that hotels have to pay.
    “Is the rental market suffering (b/c people want to air bnb their spare rooms/apts instead of renting)?” – That depends on who you ask, the landlords or the tenants. For the landlord, depending on what you’re renting you can actually make more with short term rentals like AirBnB, sometimes significantly more. This has the effect of causing you to ask more in terms of rent for a lease to offset the lost opportunity cost if you had gone the other route. It’s no coincidence that the cities with the highest AirBnB usage also have the highest rents.
    “Is this sustainable?” – Again, depends on who you ask. For each individual landlord, probably not, there will be some who don’t know how to market their property to stay competitive, but that’s no different than any other business. The only thing that would cause it to come to a halt is the parent company going under or large-scale government regulation. (cracking down on required quality / living conditions, discriminating against who you accept as renter, etc)

  • nw_dc_1988

    The market will work itself out.
    Some combo of hotels dropping their prices, Airbnb users dropping their prices, and/or people will stop adding more availability to Airbnb. Clearly there is demand if this trend is continuing. Also, DC continues to set record amounts of tourists coming to the city every year, 2015 being no exception.

    • Philippe Lecheval

      I don’t know if it has anything to do with Airbnb, but you can already stay at a very nice hotel in DC on a weekend for a LOT less than it costs business travelers during the week.

  • anonymous

    When we bought our house, our settlement with the sellers was dependent on the basement tenants agreeing to give up their rights to buy the house. It took them forever before they would sign off on their rights and it almost caused us to lose the deal. After we took ownership, my wife and I decided that we would never rent out the basement to long term tenants b/c of this issue.

    Then Airbnb came about and we were able to get a regular renter who stayed there M-F and flew home on the weekends. Since there isnt an official lease with them, we didnt have to worry about tenant rights.

    • Anon Spock

      Hmmm have you confirmed that with dcra or similar? The lease isn’t what gives tenants rights in DC. I think someone staying in your home on a long term basis 5 days a week qualifies as a tenant for topa, but maybe that’s but the case.

    • Anon

      The same tenant rights apply to Airbnb too. No lease required.

    • ExWalbridgeGuy

      Yeah, I don’t think you have that right

    • eva

      If you are truly concerned about this you might want to consult a lawyer, because I don’t think you are correct.

  • anon

    The timing of this post is funny – my landlord just told my roommates and I that he’s planning on ending our lease early and converting our whole rowhouse (3 bed/ 1 bath) into a full-time Airbnb because he can make more money that way. Not a nice thing to hear when affordable housing is already so hard to come by. Good news though – after some freaking out, us roommates talked it over and I think we convinced him to change his mind!

    The thing is, he also has an Airbnb in the attached english basement, which doesn’t bother me at all. Taking a whole conveniently located house away from local renters however – I admit it gets under my skin.

    • anon

      well he’ll probably have to pay you huge amounts of money to move out, but otherwise your lease protects you. :)

    • Anon Spock

      Your landlord tried to break the law.

      He can’t just end a lease early and tell you to leave. You also have an absolute right to go month to month once it officially ends. His desire to make more money doesn’t trump your rights.

      • OP Anon

        Yes, this is exactly right. You do not need to move out, he has no basis for evicting you.
        He can raise the rent once every 12 months, but that’s it. Otherwise your lease stands as-is.

      • dcd

        Yeah, that’s pretty outrageous. “We have a contract for a specified term, but it’s become inconvenient for me, so I’m breaking it and you have to move out. Ta ta!” Sorry, no.

      • Anonymous

        Which is exactly why a bunch of prospective landlords will choose to go the AirBnB route rather than sign a lease with a tenant that essentially allows the tenant to stay in perpetuity.

    • anon

      Wait what? I don’t think your landlord can just randomly choose to end your lease early because he wants to make more money on airbnb. Unless it’s month to month? I would never dream of doing this to my tenants…that’s super crappy.

  • Honest Abe

    At least twice, in other cities, I have experienced the old ‘bait and switch’ with AirBnB listings.

    They entice you with a great listing, then after an inquiry, all of a sudden it is unavailable… but they have another listing that is not quite as nice and a little further from where you want to be.

    So, perhaps the number of listings is not an actual representation of the units available.

  • C2

    I’ve been a host for about 18 months. During that time (in February 2015), Airbnb and the DC government agreed (surely under pressure from hotels) on collecting “hospitality tax” from guests — the same 14.5% you pay to hotels in DC when you stay as a guest. Hosts might not be aware of this because guests pay it as part of their booking and Airbnb passes it straight thru to the DC government without identifying the hosts.

    I wondered what this would do to demand — and to prices — but I’ve been surprised that both continue to climb (Airbnb suggests prices to hosts via their “Price tips tool”, based on algorithms of supply & demand). Also, every month I poke around to figure out how many other Superhosts I’m competing with in DC (more on this below), and that number also continues to rise. We haven’t reached the inflection point in this market, as far as I can tell.

    My guests have been a mix of foreign tourists and occasionally European business people (about a quarter of my total), and the rest are about evenly split between Americans on business travel or on vacation. So a significant portion of these travelers are probably not opting to travel to DC — but they are opting to stay in Airbnb. Are the tourists new tourists who can take the trip because Airbnb stays make it more fun or more cost-effective? Don’t know but the other commenter with the tourist numbers seemed like he thought that could be the case…

    And you better believe Airbnb is letting the IRS know about the income you’re making. Best do you research on reporting that income and paying the appropriate income tax!

    Finally, a tip for those using Airbnb as guests — to avoid scammers, look at listings by Superhosts (you can select this in your search). Superhosts have qualified by having a certain number of guests, really good reviews, quick communication, and by never cancelling on a guest. That will minimize the chance you’re working with a phony. Airbnb does actually focus resources on ferreting out false listings though; my sister was notified by Airbnb when she’d booked a place they considered suspicious (in NYC).

  • 9th Street Neighbor

    The DC Legislative Action Committee , of the Washington Metropolitan Chapter CAI (the DC-based legislative arm and affiliated local chapter of Community Associations Institute, respectively) is now reviewing AirBnB’s operations in DC with respect to condominium/HOA listings. The discussion just began over the past few months. Stay tuned for more reporting as it available.

    • guest1

      do you have any more info on this? my condo bylaws prohibit this but people do it anyway and it is becoming a problem.

  • anonymous

    There are definitely downsides to Airbnb. Take it from me, a person who had to live next to a unit that became totally Airbnb. I live in a rent-controlled building. It is against the law to profit from a rent-controlled apartment in the District of Columbia, and it was a violation of our lease with the property management company to sublease our apartments to anyone. That’s not why I turned in the individual running this business (and profiting heavily from what he was charging) to our management. This individual had moved out of the building for over a year, and had been subleasing and airbnb’ing for the duration, all the while making a tidy profit. The unit started changing hands a lot- as in, sometimes every night. And without going into details, it was almost like living next to a house of ill repute (if you know what I mean) with people using the apartment for short periods. That was the last straw. I get that apartment buildings have transience, but no one should have to live next to something like that.
    Also in terms of cleaning, caveat emptor. My neighbor’s temporary “tenants” complained to me about the dirty conditions in that unit. He would routinely swoop in for no more than 15 minutes and leave with a bag or two (presumably of used linens). There wasn’t much cleaning going on in that place.

  • Timebomb

    “It’s not like there are MORE tourists/students/interns visiting DC now than in prior years.”
    Source? DC’s population and economy are steadily growing, and all of the above are likely correlates with population and economic activity. Without googling for figures, my intuition is that of course there are more visitors than before.

  • victoria

    Short answer – Yes. Longer answer – the whole vacation rental industry is about to implode. There are over 3000 vacation rental apts. currently listed for DC.

    I’ve been renting out an apt. in my house for vacation stays for 10 years – before there was Airbnb. There used to be just VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) then Homeaway.com. Then Homeaway bought VRBO and recently Expedia bought Homeaway. Expedia is now flooding the market, adding hotels and far-flung rentals, so there are now over 1073 listings. Expedia is also now copying Airbnb practice of charging the guest 9% booking fee. (VRBO/HA never charged the guests a fee. Owners just paid to list.)

    Airbnb used to list 1,600+ rentals. Recently, they’ve gone shifty and now just list 300+ rentals. (Regardless of entering dates or other filters.) So it isn’t easy to tell how many properties are actually listed. But searching on neighborhoods, they show 169 in Columbia Heights, 174 in Dupont Circle, over 300 in Capitol Hill, 143 in U St., 140 in Adams Morgan, 101 in Penn Quarter, 71 in Mt. Vernon Square – so yeah – there are a LOT of listings!

    Airbnb has become the default in public consciousness for “alternative” vacation rentals, but people have also started realizing they are paying an extra 23% above the posted nightly rent – 14% hotel tax and 9% booking fee to airbnb. The rate you need to charge to make it worth all the hassle is realistically upwards of $75.00/night. So that means the guest is really paying $100.00/night.

    For example a nice 1 bedroom airbnb apt. near Verizon center for the weekend of July 22 & 23 is $535.00. Homewood suties is offering a suite for $127/night. Klimpton Monaco is $159/night. People are going to start wising up.

    Airbnb probably brings in some people who might not otherwise have come to DC – now coming down for a concert or exhibition. But I don’t know how people actually manage to sort through all the options. I’ve searched for a place near me (Columbia Heights) for guests that I couldn’t accommodate and it was enormously frustrating. Inquired at about 12 places. Only 7 even replied, 4 hadn’t kept their calendar up so weren’t available, and the others were just too weird.

    But clearly, some people here are having success – so good on you. For those thinking of jumping in the pot, do a lot of research. Search Airbnb like someone who knows nothing about DC. What do they find? How does that compete with what you have to offer?

    I think vacation rentals don’t really take much away from DC hotels, but probably have an impact on budget Virginia hotels in Virginia (Crystal City, Rosslyn)

    And big yes that apartment buildings and condos are going to start cracking down.

    • Jill

      Based on my experience observing the hotels near my office in Crystal City, their customer base comes mostly from tour bus groups and conference-goers. Those aren’t customers that could be lured away by Airbnb.

      • Accountering

        Meh, I have a group of 3 moms and 6 8th graders coming from rural Washington State this summer. These are people who would have stayed in a Crystal City hotel, before AirBNB.

  • SilverSpringGal

    There’s nothing rosey about it when people are charging $150+ a day for anything that isn’t a bunk bed…

  • V

    just wait for Inauguration… I’m planning to rent out my house for THOUSANDS!!!

    • Jill

      I’m torn between renting my house for thousands, or having an easy walk to Inauguration which I do want to attend (assuming Hillary wins).

      • womp


    • victoria

      Thousands are not going to happen. For Obama’s first inauguration, I did well with a sort of “auction.” I asked people to make an offer – for a total package of 4 people for 4 nights. (My rental 1.5. miles from the White House, 1/2 block to Columbia Heights Metro.) I think I got $1000.00, which was quite good.

      For the second inauguration, I don’t remember the total price I got, (thought it was still good) but I do remember there were HUNDREDS of airbnbs that went unbooked.

      When Hilary wins, I think inauguration might be equally as dramatic as Obama’s first, but remember there will also be more than a thousand other hosts on airbnb to compete with.


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